In a white man’s world, every minority has to deal with their shortcomings within society. Minorities all have their own experiences with discrimination, but we often don’t see that minorities also discriminate against each other.
When dealing with two different types of people, or cultures, of course they are going to have a hard time understanding each other. That does not mean they have ill will towards one another. Usually, as minorities, we are not only consistently trying to prove ourselves to everyone else while only utilizing the cards we are dealt with, but we also have to accept some of our own shortcomings along the way. The last thing we need to do is attack one another.
Discrimination during World War II
Throughout modern history, Asians and African-Americans have had their own problems to deal with. From constant hate crimes to dealing with police brutality, each group has had to deal with what society offers. Since both had to learn to survive in a white world, it has not been easy. People usually think Asian Americans had it easy, but frankly that has not been the case. Most people know about Asians dealing with hate crimes because of COVID-19, but abuse has been happening before then.
In the article, “The Unlawful Detention of Asian Americans During World War 2 Remains Disturbingly Relevant”, Daniel Johnson showcases these dark moments for the Asian community.
“When America entered the hostilities, however, it was only those of Japanese descent who were targeted for mass imprisonment in internment camps. First, immediately after the attacks, over 1,500 Asian Americans were arrested by the FBI, Office of Naval Intelligence, and the Army G-2. In January 1942, the Secretary of the Navy falsely blamed Japanese Americans for assisting Imperial Japanese forces in their attack on the installation. President Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 a month later.”
Asians have had their fair share of hard times. The Asian community has suffered from discrimination ever since World War II. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, most Americans had a bad view of Asians as a whole. Even if they were American, Asians were still seen as the enemy. This thinking led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to sign an executive order that forcibly removed 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry from their homes.
Discrimination post-World War II
The drama did not stop. All this hate against Japanese people led to an individual getting killed. In 1982, a man by the name of Vincent Chin was celebrating his up and coming wedding at a strip club in Detroit. Things were going great until two white men assumed he was Japanese and decided to beat him to death with a bat. In the article, “How the 1982 Murder of Vincent Chin Ignited a Push for Asian American Rights”, Becky Little goes into detail on what happened.
“On the night Chin went out with his friends, 43-year-old Chrysler Foreman, Ronald Ebens, and his 22-year-old stepson Michael Nitz, who’d lost his job at Chrysler, were also at the club. According to testimony, a dispute started between the groups of men over a stripper. A dancer at the club later recalled Ebens shouting at Chin, ‘It’s because of you motherf***ers that we’re out of work,’ Betty Little continues.
After the scuffle moved outside, Ebens grabbed a baseball bat from his car and began chasing Chin, who ran away. Ebens and Nitz then drove around for about 20 minutes looking for Chin. When they found him, Nitz held Chin while Ebens beat him to death with the baseball bat. Chin died in the hospital four days later from his injuries.”
According to the article, a lot of people felt like the incident was impacted not only by their existing hatred from World War II but also because of the decline in access to jobs in the automotive industry. A lot of white Americans blamed the Japanese for the lack of jobs. Because of this, many Asians were discriminated against, which led to people like Vincent Chin getting hurt. But even after hearing all those boys’ testimonies about the incident, the killers still did not get the punishment they deserved. All they received was a $3,000 fine and zero prison time. Even though this story did not make the national news, it still affected the Asian community.
As you can see, African Americans are not the only ones who have been wronged by the justice system. To a certain extent, Asians can relate to other minorities because of their own experiences. But does that mean it justifies any behavior of harming others? No, it does not. Based on what has been happening throughout history, you can see that the system in America has a pattern of not providing minorities the justice they deserve. Even when they have proof of wrongdoing, it is like the government still does not hear them. You would think after Vincent Chin, Asians and African Americans would come to some type of understanding, or even bond over their mutual oppression. But that is not the case.
Every culture has different values and views. Because of their differences, many people from one culture will judge the other culture to be less than themselves. We as minorities most often come for white people for their discriminatory actions but we do not check ourselves when doing so. Over the years, we can say that both African Americans and Asians have not always gotten along.
The 1990s was a time when people had enough. There were so many instances where minorities were at a disadvantage that drove them to the edge. There were multiple events that brought attention to the hostility between African-American and Asian communities to the point that they would have physical altercations amongst each other on the street. During the early 90s, some of the animosity amongst both communities had something to do with the justice system not working in anyone’s favor. Just like Vincent Chin, African-American folks are no stranger to racial profiling because they are seemingly always being cheated by the system.
Within the African-American community this discrimination has become so rampant that it has driven the majority of the public crazy. Things did not hit the fan until police officers beat up Rodney King in 1991 and received a not guilty verdict. The judgment caused many in Los Angeles to riot. Once that riot started, almost every store was destroyed, including a lot of Asian-American establishments. In an article called “The Los Angeles Riots and the Korean-African American Conflict” by Edward Taehan Chang, Edward discusses how the riots not just impacted blacks but psychologically affected Asians as well.
“Psychological damage suffered by victims of the riots still lingers and is very much part of their daily life. A survey conducted by the Korean American Inter-Agency Council (KAIAC) found that 15% of college-age youth had dropped out of school because of the riots. Many Korean Americans lost faith in the “American Dream” and began to wonder about their place and purpose of life in America. “Edward Taehan Chang
With all of this going on, it can be hard for someone to have hope for the future. When you deal with a system that does not have the people’s best interest in mind, people get exhausted by the setbacks. When businesses are destroyed because of outlandish actions, it can cause extreme resentment. Because of events like this, tension grew between the two groups. Asians started to look at African-American folks a little sideways. Because much of it was based on a negative assumption, they acted in fear.
Discrimination within minority communities
On March 16, 1991, when 15-year-old Latasha Harlins walked into Empire Liquor Market in South Central Los Angeles and grabbed a $1.79 bottle of orange juice and put it in her backpack. A Korean-born store owner by the name of Soon Ja Du accused her of stealing it, even though Latasha had two dollars in her hands. Once Du grabbed her sweater for the money, Latasha punched Du in the face and tried to run away. Du grabbed the gun and shot Latasha in the head. With evidence proving Du committed the crime, she was found guilty of manslaughter.
Instead of serving a maximum sentence, all she had to do was five year’s probation. Why was that the verdict? Why was she not convicted like the other murderers who are people of color? Do all minorities get treated the same? It seems like that is not the case. It looks like privilege also applies to people of color.
In the article, “Addressing Anti-Blackness in Asian and Other Non-black Communities of Color“, Jessica Nguyen goes into detail:
“As Vu Le so eloquently explained in his own post on this issue, when our discussions are limited to racism, it can seem like white people hold all the systemic privilege, and all people of color are equally disadvantaged—but that’s not the case. There is a complex spectrum of privilege and oppression, tied up in issues of intersectionality, and inequitably distributed across communities of color.”
With this being the case, there are some minorities who have certain privileges only by being closer to the majority. It makes it easier for them to not only do more things but also not to be treated as harshly as other people of color. Usually individuals in Asian communities do not see this because they personally have their own struggles. But by looking on the outside it is very clear that there is a difference in how society views and treats each minority.
The concept of the “model minority”
In the article, “Exploring the Model Minority Myth“, Reshawna Chapple talks about the term “model minority” and where it came from.
“The concept of “model minority” was introduced in a New York Times magazine essay published in 1966. In the essay, a sociologist named Professor William Petersen praised Japanese Americans for their strong family values and work ethic. He credited these traits for their socio-economic success.”
How are we supposed to fix the problem if we were conditioned not to see it? Professor Peterson, highlighting the Asian community’s outstanding traits, is practicing favoritism amongst minorities. Because Asians are seen as smart and intelligent, it makes it easier for white people to want to be more associated with them. For some minorities, it puts them on a pedestal just below whites. When one is that close to privilege, it gives them a power they never had before. It makes them look more appealing compared to the others while ignoring the overall issue.
In the article, “Are Asian Americans People of Color or The Next in Line to Become White?” Jennifer Lee showcases some interesting statistics.
“The majority of Black Americans (63%) and Hispanic Americans (56%) also perceive Asian Americans as closer to people of color than to white Americans. By stark contrast, 69% of white Americans perceive the status of Asian Americans as closer to white people.”
Regarding hate crimes and being physically abused in public, Asians know how it feels to be mistreated on their own. So what makes it okay to participate or play a part in harming others? Nothing. That is why it is even more important that we as individuals speak up when something is going wrong. In the article, The Role Anti-Asian Americans Play in Anti Black Racism, Caroline Le explains how Asians played a role in George Floyd’s murder.
“The death of George Floyd, among many other Black Americans, serves as a wake-up call for our nation to confront the racism that plagues every aspect of American society. Derek Chauvin, the officer who murdered George Floyd, did not act alone. Tou Thao, a Hmong-American officer, also witnessed Floyd’s futile pleas for breath under Chauvin’s knee, and without remorse, enabled his white colleague to continue. Every day, Black Americans leave their homes debilitated by fear: fear of a law enforcement system that continually targets and unjustly murders Black individuals. Yet, the Asian-American community has consistently remained silent.”
A flawed legal system in need of correction
How are we supposed to improve the system? If we do not speak up, how do we stop the cycle if we are part of the problem? Asians continuously speak on mistreatment from the system towards people of their own culture. But when it is someone of a different ethnicity, it appears satisfactory to be silent.
That is the main problem. Whenever minorities are in a certain position of power, they tend to abuse it or even not use it properly. When the majority of groups are misguided for so long, how do you expect them to even recognize the power they have together? Usually, minorities find it easier to team up with a group that is similar to them. Even though that is the easiest way for some, it can still be hard to understand others when you are not around them enough.
In the article, “The Science Behind Sticking by Your Race”, Tatyana Phelps speaks about the reason behind it all: “You’ve heard the phrase ‘birds of a feather flock together,’ right?” Hochschild said. “Sociologists call this tendency for people who are similar to stick together the ‘homophily effect.’ Race, ethnicity, social class, gender, religion and political affiliation are but several characteristics that people use to organize themselves. People are generally more comfortable being around others with similar values, attitudes and behaviors.”
This is understandable because people feel more comfortable connecting with others who have had similar experiences, especially when it comes to serious events. They would rather side with a group that can understand them the most. How are we going to find the solution if we are not seeing it from the other person’s perspective? Both the Asian and black communities have been right and wrong. When someone is stuck in their beliefs, they tend to be stubborn and not see the other side. This gets difficult especially when someone is wrong. It can be very hard to make them see the whole picture.
In a world dominated by white people, it can be hard for any minority to move efficiently. From Vincent Chin to George Floyd, both Asian and African Americans know what it is like to be put at a disadvantage and still be done wrong by the system. So why consistently spread hate to one another, when we can learn from one another?
In order to successfully reform the system, not only should we communicate better, but also change ourselves. We need to learn not only how to treat one another but also to support each other as well.
Edited by: Steven London & James Sutton